SANTA ANA (CNS) - Coming off its deadliest week of the coronavirus pandemic, Orange County reported another four fatalities due to the virus today, and Gov. Gavin Newsom said rising infection rates have landed the county on a state public health watch list.
The four deaths announced Monday by the Orange County Health Care Agency lifted the county's overall death toll to 330. Three deaths were announced on Sunday.
Last week was the deadliest of the COVID-19 pandemic in the county, with 56 deaths reported.
Health officials also reported 456 new cases of coronavirus, raising the total to 13,064.
Newsom announced during a midday briefing that Orange County, along with Solano, Merced and Glenn counties, had been added to the state Department of Public Health's watch list due to increasing percentages of positive tests.
The county has a case rate of 109.2 per 100,000 residents, and a positive test rate of 9.3%, according to health officials.
The state has set a desired standard average of 25 positive cases per 100,000 over a 14-day period, and a seven-day average positivity rate of 8%.
Being added to the state's watch list initially means only that state health officials will work more closely with local officials on efforts to manage the spread of the virus. But it could potentially lead to more dramatic actions, as evidenced on Sunday when Newsom ordered all bars closed in Los Angeles and other counties seeing virus spikes.
The number of hospitalized patients in Orange County dipped from 492 on Sunday to 485 on Monday, with the number of patients in intensive care rising from 170 to 175.
The county has performed 223,363 tests, with 7,193 documented recoveries.
The county, however, is in good shape in terms of hospital beds available. The county has 41.3% of its intensive care unit beds available, above the state threshold of 20%, and the county has 68% of its ventilators available, above the state standard of 25%.
The three-day average of hospitalized patients is up 11.6%, exceeding the state standard of 10%.
Of the fatalities, 171 were from nursing homes, and two were transients.
Orange County sheriff's officials reported that 399 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, with 388 having since recovered. There are 11 sickened inmates in medical isolation and officials are awaiting results of 109 tests.
County officials had a meeting with city leaders Friday and discussed ways they can promote more social distancing techniques, such as mask wearing, to help slow the spread of the virus, Orange County CEO Frank Kim told City News Service.
Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, the president of the California State Association of Counties, said state officials may consider rolling back access to the beaches as a way to stem the spread of coronavirus.
“The governor is looking at positivity rates for the counties and hospital rates statewide are up 30%, so the governor is very concerned,'' Bartlett said.
State public health officials have been monitoring beach activity recently, Bartlett said.
“We're hearing through the grapevine something may be under consideration'' regarding beach access along the coast statewide, Bartlett said.
The beaches will be of particular interest thanks to the approaching Fourth of July holiday weekend, and the possibility of large gatherings.
Orange County congressional representatives on Friday sent a letter to county officials critical of how many tests have been administered to residents compared with other counties.
The letter was signed by Reps. Mike Levin, D-Dana Point, Gil Cisneros, D-Fullerton, Katie Porter, D-Irvine, Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, and Linda Sanchez, D-Norwalk.
The congressional representatives, who met with county officials after requesting more information about the county's testing programs last month, say some residents continue to face obstacles to getting a test.
“Fast, accessible and widespread testing is critical to protecting public health and preventing a resurgence as we continue to reopen,'' the letter reads.
“Ensuring accessible testing will not only reassure the public on behalf of businesses seeking to reopen, but will also support the contact tracing needed to control future outbreaks.''
Bartlett said anyone in Orange County can get a test regardless of their ability to pay.
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